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Redefining postal services in India

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Kalpana Tewari
Member (Planning), Postal Services Board, Department of Posts,
Ministry of Communications and IT, Government of India

“There can be immense development in the entire country, if we are able to bring all the 130,000 villages on a single platform,” says Kalpana Tewari. In conversation with Ankush Kumar


These days there has been lot of changes in the way people use the services from the Department of Post. Please tell us about the work that you are doing.

For more than 150 years, the Department of Posts (DoP) has been the backbone of the country’s communication network. It has played a crucial role in the country’s socio-economic development. It touches the lives of Indian citizens in many ways: delivering mails, accepting deposits under Small Savings Schemes, providing life insurance cover under Postal Life Insurance (PLI) and Rural Postal Life Insurance (RPLI), and providing retail services like bill collection, sale of forms, etc. The Department of Posts also acts as an agent for Government of India in discharging other services for citizens such as Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS) wage disbursement and old age pension payments. With more than 1,50,000 Post Offices, the Department of Posts has the most widely distributed postal network in the world.

Department of Posts has undertaken various IT initiatives. What is your view of the role that Information Technology can play in improving the quality of postal services in the country?
Our aim is to make all the projects of Department of Posts available on a technological platform, whether it is banking services, insurance, logistic services or the regular services like the speed post. From an e-Governance prospective, we have a physical presence of total 150,000 post offices and out of these, 130,000 are in rural areas. About 6,000 people are covered on an average by post offices in rural areas and about 25,000 in urban areas. The Department of Posts has computerized all the post offices in the urban cities. We have provided hand held devices in the rural areas as the amount of traffic and volume of work is very low. Physical outlets in villages are empowered to provide postal services through our hand held devices. We already have a mobile to mobile money transfer service. We have tied up with many countries of the world to process international money order. We have enabled our system to integrate with the core technological platform of other countries to provide seamless transmission of money orders. We are focusing on e-Commerce in a big way and technology will help us to connect our services globally. We have tied up with Amazon to provide a platform where people can process their transactions. We are hopeful that we will complete all our pilot projects by the end of next year. It will help us to replicate our projects in the entire country.

Department of Posts is working with government to assist in the implementation of services. What role can it play in enhancing service delivery system?
We have many vehicles throughout the country that are going to be GPS enabled. We are a part of the Government’s e-Governance plan and we offer a lot of products to our customers. So from a technology prospective it’s very important for us to be flexible so that we can integrate our systems with other. Our system is integrated with the Railways to provide services to the citizens. All our facilities are going to be available on the technological platform in a real time basis. We can bring revolution in the entire country if we are able to bring all the 130,000 villages on a single platform. In the recent past, Internet and email have revolutionized the world of communications. Through e-POST, customers can send their messages to any address in India with a combination of electronic transmission and physical delivery through a network of around 1,55,000 Post Offices. e-POST sends messages as a soft copy through internet and at the destination it will be delivered to the addressee in the form of hard copy. e-POST costs just `10 per page of A4 size. e-POST can also be availed by the corporate customers, by having a business agreement with India Post. Corporate customers will get special POST rates and other value additions.

How can post offices be used in delivering direct cash subsidies under DBT (Direct Benefit Transfer) scheme?
Workers under rural jobs schemes across India can now reap the gains from the Direct Benefits Transfer (DBT) with their existing savings accounts in Post Offices. The Finance Ministry has issued a directive to allow cash subsidies under various Government schemes to be depos-deposited in the beneficiaries’ PO accounts, that had been opened for transferring wages earned under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act. MGNREGA workers are allowed to open no-frills accounts, either in banks or post offices. However, the accounts opened in post-offices could not be used for depositing any other cash subsidies or benefits. With this new initiative, all cash subsidies under welfare schemes, including pensions and scholarships, can also be deposited in these accounts.

In early 2010, Department of Posts initiated Mail Network Optimisation Project. What impact it has created in the service delivery system?
Mail Network Optimization Project (MNOP) was initiated by the Department of Posts in March 2010. The project was conceptualized in the context of the need to consolidate the mail network and improve processes, enhance consistency and reliability in product performance, and bring in effective monitoring. The project was primarily aimed at improving the quality of mail services especially that of Speed Post, for the common people as well as corporate customers through operational restructuring and process redesign. On the other hand, the initiatives undertaken as part of the project were intended to streamline the mail operations of the Department and provide an effective tool for performance monitoring for various administrative as well as operational levels. Some of the achievements that we had from these projects are i.e. the delivery performance has improved for Speed Post by more than a day on an average across the network.

We Aim to bring 130,000 villages in the entire country on a single technology platform

Tell us about Automated Mail Processing Centres. What role it can play in increasing the efficiency of postal services in India.
The Department has undertaken a project to set up Automated Mail Processing Centres (AMPCs) in metro cities with a view to automate mail sorting. These automated systems would be used for sorting of mail, which would help the Department in increasing the productivity at Mail Offices in these cities. The Letter Sorting Machines would be able to sort approximately 35000 articles per hour, whereas the Mixed Mail Sorter would sort approximately 16000 articles per hour. The mixed mail sorting machines would help in faster processing of large size letters, flats and packets/ parcels through the use of Optical Character Recognition (OCR) technology. Automation in mail processing would also help the Department in modernization of mail network, consolidation of sorting activities and expedite mail sorting and delivery in these cities. The sorting machines have been installed and commissioned in Delhi and Kolkata.

There is a constant demand from customers to open more post offices especially in newly developing urban agglomerations. How are you meeting these challenges?
To meet this Indiapost had introduced the franchise scheme through which the counter services are to be franchised, while delivery and transmission will be continued through the Department. The franchisee will provide service across the counter for a minimum defined time schedule with flexibility to work round the clock. Applicants for franchises would need to submit an application in a prescribed Performa. The selected franchisee will sign a Memorandum of Agreement with the Department .Criteria for selection have been fixed considering the need to select persons with the capacity to manage and market a range of products, along with a sense of the community needs and public aspects of the job, and willingness to accept technological options.

 

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